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Learning and Information for Families and Educators

A comprehensive, research based resource for families and educators of individuals with disabilities.

International Services

Watson's Experience with International Partners


The Watson Institute has worked closely with government officials, agencies, and academicians in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland over the past decade.

Irish Autism Action (IAA)

click here for a link to the IAA website
click here for a story about our ACCLAIM program in Ireland

This is a dynamic, innovative organization formed in 2001, which is bringing a positive change to the lives of those affected by autism spectrum disorder in Ireland.  The range of services, which Irish Autism Action provides includes awareness, early detection, and diagnosis, educational support, advocacy, counseling, helpline, home based support, transitional planning, research information and advice for families upon receiving a diagnosis. 

Irish Autism Action is an umbrella organization with over 40 member groups and individual members.  Members range from the 13 Special Schools for Children with Autism to local support groups and are located in most every county in Ireland. IAA set up Ireland’s first National Diagnostic and Assessment Centre known as Solas, which is based in Dublin. In April 2009 marked the launch of the National Autism Helpline, which is operated by parents. It is Ireland’s first autism helpline, which provides impartial and confidential information, advice and support for people with an autistic spectrum disorder, their families and professionals.

  • The IAA and the Watson Institute completed an application together to the Genio Project requesting funding to develop a training program for trainers to assist pupils transitioning from secondary school to college level education.  The funds will support the training for the trainers (teachers) who will work with students to help matriculate to the college setting.  The Watson Institute staff provides the training.
  • Training took place first in Ireland with three of Watson’s faculty members providing a week of training to the selected Irish delegation; then the Irish trainees came to the US and trained on site at Watson in the summer 2011.  Twelve individuals spent 4-five weeks training in the ACCLAIM Program at Watson, US.  They will begin ACCLAIM in Ireland in fall 2011 a staff person from Watson will support them in the fall; through Skype, email and an on-site visit.
  • This project also funded on-site training to develop the Watson Inclusion Summer Program (WISP) in Ireland.  A Watson staff person spent 6 weeks in Ireland training staff and then supervising the first inclusionary summer program in of children with ASD and typically developing children.  Plans are to continue to grow the program.

Other trainings provide to Irish delegations at The Watson Institute:

  • November 2009, hosted Irish Autism Action delegation for training and sessions on the development of collaborative opportunities.
  • November 2005 hosted visit of Fulbright Scholar, Tom McCully, Director of Special Needs for Belmont House School, Londonderry, Northern Ireland for consultation regarding inclusion, facilities development and programming for students with autism.
  • March, 2003 hosted North-South Ireland delegation sponsored through the European Union Peace Initiative;

Dr. John Hunter, Senior Inspector, Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI)

Dr. Victor McNair, School of Education, University of Ulster

Stanton Slone, Senior Education Officer, Curriculum, South Eastern Education and Library Board (Belfast Area)

Paddy Macky, Senior Advisor, Western Education and Library Board (Ohagh)

Don Mahon, Divisional Inspector, Department of Education and Science

Dr. Sheelagh Drudy, Head of Department of Education, University College Dublin

William Kinsella, Chair, Department of Education, University College Dublin



In 1999, the Watson Institute hosted a leadership group from Beijing, China. Two Child Psychiatrists from the Association for Autism in Beijing and a Clinical Psychologist from the China National Institute of Educational Research along with two families members of children with autism, that have become advocates for other families with children with autism in their country.  The delegation from China spent two weeks learning about our programs.  Following that visit, a group from Watson visited China and toured programs and families groups.  Two formal presentations were conducted on Autism Spectrum Disorders one to a group of professionals and the other to a group of families.

After the initial two visits, there were no longer funds from China to support continued involvement. 


In 2000, an educator from a small town near Oslo, Norway spent three weeks at the Watson Institute’s LEAP Preschool.  He came to learn the LEAP strategies through observation, hands–on implementation and feedback from a trainer and didactic learning sessions.  He left with the materials, sources for purchasing materials, the Parent Training Manual, the Quality Classroom Guidelines, data sheets and a our website address and an email connection.

In November of 2000, two LEAP staff traveled to Norway to provide feedback to the staff beginning to replicate the LEAP Preschool strategies in Norway.  As part of their trip, they conducted a day-long training for educators from all over the country.  The title of the presentation was “Children with autism learn from other children”.  It consisted of an overview of autism and a detailed review of the LEAP strategies.



Louise Majkut, Senior Policy Officer with the RespiteDirectorate at Ageing Disability and Home Care, Departmentof Human Services in Sydney, New South Wales, Australiareceived a 2010 Winston Churchill Fellowship to researchinnovative community based models of respite. Louise was strongly encouraged by, and interested in, theinformation and program initiatives she read about on Watson’s website.

In addition to visiting the Education Center in Sewickley, her visit to the Pittsburgh area includedattendance at the Respite Roundtable hosted by CareBreak.Louise was also able to meet CareBreakvolunteers and families and observe a CareBreak match.  Louise described her CareBreak visit as “the most meaningfulexperience during my travels, where I could better understandhow successful programs like CareBreak are built on a strongfoundation of values and are well supported by an organizationthat has demonstrated expertise and longevity in thecommunity like the Watson Institute.”



A group of 10 people from the Netherlands visited to learn more about implementing Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) into schools in their country.

There were four head teachers, three substitute head teachers (they are also still teaching), one specialist in providing help to children with special needs and one policymaker and the superintendant of the five schools in Meppel.

Meppel is a small urban society (30 thousand inhabitants).  They spent two days learning how we implemented PBIS in our large urban school district in Pittsburgh, PA.  PBIS is essentially a professional development model, with most of the effort going to increasing the capacity of school-based personnel to do the various parts of the process.  We shared our challenges and  how we worked around them.   We shared some of the developmental stages we witnessed as we worked with the school personnel.


McAlllister, J.R. (2011, February 3). Increasing social skills in children with ASD in an    inclusive summer intervention program.  Presented to the Inclusion Development Program – Autism, University of Birmingham, England.

McAllister, J.R. (2010, November 29).  Considering needs and service options for students with autism as they transition to post-secondary education.  Presented at the European Autism Action Conference, Dublin, Ireland.

Zychowski, L.A., McAllister, J.R., Jarock, N., Schutte, J., & McHue, M. (2010, November 4), Efficacy of a College Acclimation Program for High-Functioning Students Diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.  Presented at the Autism 2010 Geneva Centre for Autism International Symposium, Toronto, Canada.

McAllister, J.R. (2005, February 9).  Including Children with Autism.  Keynote address to the Opening Education Conference of the North South Collaboration, Ballyconnell, Ireland.  

McAllister, J.R. (2002, November 15).  Inclusive Summer Services for Children with Autism:  Focusing on Social Skills Facilitation.  Presented to the Department of Education, Education, Dublin, Ireland.

McAllister, J.R.(2002, November 12).  Inclusive Summer Services for Children with Autism:  Focusing on Social Skills Facilitation.  Presented to the Northern Ireland Strategy Group for Special Educaiton, Antrim, Northern Ireland.